Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Recruiting is weird.
I don't need to rehash the ways in which it is weird, because if you're reading a college football blog, you are deeply familiar with the myriad ways in which it is but, needless to say, it is also the lifeblood of a program. Recruit or die.
But what struck me in this recruiting season is that Jim Harbaugh is Alexander Hamilton-esque.
Allow me to explain, via the unlikely for me route of musical theater (oh and I'm sorry Jane).
As many of you know, Hamilton is the breakout musical of the 2015-16 Broadway season. Created by MacArthur Genius Grant winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical tells the story of Revolutionary America through the eyes of future Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton went from a penniless immigrant from Nevis to what is now Columbia University to George Washington's right-hand man in the Continental Army to delegate to the Constitutional Convention to Secretary of the Treasury to his death in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. But what Miranda centers on in his take on Hamilton is seen in the Act I closing number, "Non-Stop."
"How to account for his rise to the top?
Maaaaan, the man is
We know Harbaugh is a competitor. We know that Harbaugh believes in the notion that if we're keeping score, if we're competing, then why not try to win. Yes, you will ruffle some feathers along the way, you're going to make some enemies, but Harbaugh has zero fear about that. In fact, what upsets Harbaugh's competitors is that he is non-stop. He makes them work harder. He forces them out of their comfort zone. Harbaugh has sleepovers at recruit's houses to maximize his in-home visit time? That just makes good sense. But that also means other coaches have to decide if they want to do it. Which brings me to another point.
One of the nuances that Hamilton can't convey readily is that Hamilton firmly believed in "loose construction" of the Constitution. The document that he helped to explain to the American people in the Federalist Papers, he felt that as long as the Constitution did not expressly forbid him from doing something and the ends were legal and Constitutional, he could choose the non-expressly forbidden means by which to arrive at the end. I feel like Jim Harbaugh looks at the NCAA rulebook the same way. Does the NCAA say we CAN'T do this? A rulebook and interpretive guide massive in size and scope to account for this exact kind of behavior; and yet, still Coach Harbaugh continues to find ways around it. Whether it is satellite camps, the Sincerely Yours in Football camp, the Signing of the Stars event, recruit sleepovers, all of these things are perfectly within the rules, Harbaugh was just crazy enough to say, why not? The competition hates this kind of thing, because it forces them to respond, and they know they don't have the motor to do it. The man is non-stop. Jim Harbaugh is boundless energy, he's Tigger in khaki pants and a sharp light blue pullover sweater. He plays to win all the time and he doesn't really care whose feelings get hurt in the process. It's a meritocracy, and he has the exact right school and fanbase to sell that notion.
The thing is, he won't have to do this for very long. If he can convert this highly touted recruiting class into the expected results on the field, the results that Ohio State and Michigan State used this cycle to recruit their players (and, by the way, still the single best argument you can make in recruiting, winning and winning consistently), then he won't need stunts. But for now, he is happy to leverage your curiosity into Harbaugh's next bold gamble, next outspoken moment, next unfiltered utterance, and use the media churn to keep the Michigan name in front of recruits.
Harbaugh may seem like to some that he assumes he is the smartest in the room (well, he went to Michigan, we sometimes do that. It happens.) Every proclamation gives ammunition to his enemies. But history has his eyes on him, and he's not throwing away his shot. Just you wait.
And if you don't know, now you know, Victors.